Modern Action/Suspense Shadow Wing (ALONe + GMA cards)
#1
Here's a story I started earlier last year, tentatively called "Shadow Wing".  I had a few chapters done so decided to start this thread. 

In the story, you'll see questions I ask the GMA cards, interspersed in the story, like in these this samples:

Does the sun come out at all today?
E:N

  • The E, means Even odds, a 50/50 chance of happening.
  • The N means "No".

Do her shoes come untied as she runs? 
G:Y

  • The G, means Good odds (so more likely to happen)
  • The Y means "Yes".

Does she get a hot date?
B:N!
  • B means Bad odds 
  • The N! means ("No, And!")

Does she ace her math finals?
B:Y!
  • Bad odds 
  • A "Yes, And!" response

You'll also see:
TL = Tension Level
SL = Stability Level
  • Anytime the Tension Level exceeds the Stability Level there's a random event (usually negative)
  • If they match, there's a positive random event.

So something like this:
The figures approached her out of the alley way.
Do they have guns?
(B:N,TL4vSL5)

This tells you there's a Tension Level (TL) 4 vs a Stability Level (SL) of 5, so there's no random event on this question, and it's Bad odds that they have guns with a result of "No". They don't have guns.
The TL gradually increases over time. Typically, this occurs according to the rules whenever there's a question asked of the GMA cards, and then it resets to 1 after a random event, at least according to the game options I'm using. I don't follow this rule exactly. Sometimes, if I'm asking multiple questions about a scene setup, and they don't seem to merit a TL increase, I may not increase it.

The story features, Amala, a high school student starting her senior year.
The setting is modern in a pseudo New York City.
I won't bore you with a lot of her backstory, but will reveal all that as the story progresses.
Enjoy!



Chapter 1 -  Memories
---
What’s the scene about? Cabin / Assassination
Observe/Rare/Murder
Who involved? Scarlet

TL: 1

“Amala!” Aunt Jemal’s foice called up to her.

“I’m coming!” Amala called down the stairs and ran a brush through her hair and then swept back her brown hair into a ponytail and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Blue jeans and sneakers combined with a simple white t-shirt completed her outfit. She frowned at her dusting of freckles. Some boys called her “the pretty nerd” but she still wished she could scrub off the freckles. She was sure they just meant “pretty nerdy”.

She hopped down the cabin’s stairs and gave Jemal a peck on her cheek before they both trotted down the porch's steps to their rented sedan packed in the gravel drive. The cool scent of pine and aspen lingered on the breeze in the pre-dawn air.

Jemal smiled and climbed in the driver’s seat. “It’s our last day here, and I want to see two more historical sites before tomorrow.”

Amala adored her Aunt Jemal. She’d been a truer mother than Mother had been. A truer father even than Jack, her father, had been. Jemal had been there for her. Listened to her. Loved her. When the others thought she was “going nutty”--that was Shane’s phrase, her older brother, Jemal had simply hugged her, told her she loved her.

They drove in silence for a time, and Amala dozed until the first beams of the sun played across her face. She blinked at the light and rubbed at a crick in her neck.

“You get to pick the restaurant we go to tonight,” Jemal smiled.

Amala smiled back, “How about Thai Tower?”

Jemal smiled again. “Sure thing. It is your last day of vacation.”

“It’s our last day of vacation,” she responded.

They talked about her upcoming load of classes, her final school year at McRay Scientific Academy, the private school where her parents had sent her to get her out of their lives. Jemal would never have been able to afford sending her there, but Father was rolling in cash, stock options, liquidated assets, prime real estate. The curriculum had a heavy emphasis on STEM subjects but also had a decent arts program. Amala loved dance and gymnastics. She loved the feeling her body had when she acted on instinct, moving through space and time.

More comfortable silence. She turned on the radio, and listened to the scratchy FM radio that struggled to get a signal to them in the mountains. She flipped to the AM band, and as they wound out of a valley, climbing over a mountain pass, the radio blared a commercial in loud annoying platitudes about a pain cream that would save you money and pain. “So smooth you’d hardly even feel it was there.”

And then it switched to the news.

“...One witness claims he saw a figure, medium height, garbed in black and of slight build fleeing the scene of the crime, on foot. Another witness claims to have seen a flash of red clothing, maybe from a red sash or inner lining as the suspect escaped from the exterior of a two-story building and climbed to the roof a matter of heartbeats. Police say the killer is in excellent physical condition and an expert in stealth and hand to hand combat.

“It appears that Mayor Kashi’s security detail were completely surprised. No shots were fired. There were signs of a physical struggle in Mayor Kashi’s living quarters. Two of her bodyguards were killed. The Mayor and three others were rushed to St. Joseph’s. It is reported that they are all in critical condition. This latest attack follows on the heels of recent violent attacks.

“The public is asking ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’.”

How were the guards killed? Blade wounds?
E:N
Bullets?
E:N
Hand to hand and poison then.
TL 3:

Another attempted killing.

Amala frowned and changed the channel.

“...in economic news, share prices for Biomachinery Engineering Ltd have risen considerably with the announcement of the Angel Device, the very first of its kind. In just a moment we’ll have an exclusive interview with Mr. Jack Marcell, CEO of BIOME. Stay tuned for--”

Amala spun the volume dial to off and leaned her head down on her arms resting on the window frame, and let the cool morning rush of wind caress her face. She’d nearly driven him--them--to the back of her mind, but now that single announcement threatened to destroy it all.

“Your father’s not a bad man,” Jemal said. “He just didn’t know how to handle your...condition.”

She saw the dark trees flashing by and squinted when streams of light flickered through the trees warming her face with their pale light.

Her...’condition’.

Jemal referred to Amala’s inexplicable ability to sometimes see things in the past that others had done and sometimes to see possible events in the future. For the former she had to be touching someone or something associated with a past event. An object connected to strong emotion.

Then...she could see visions of what had happened. And sometimes--rarely--she would get premonitions about events in the future. Like what had happened two years ago. That one had scared her. A bomb threat--no not a threat. A real bomb. But she had followed a string of visions past and present and now the school was safe.

The downside was that her own family had called her crazy. And they weren’t willing to handle the social fallout and so she had been largely disowned. Could she blame them? Maybe if she had seen herself as they had seen her, spouting nonsense, trying to touch things that weren’t there--maybe she would have done the same.

The visions often unfolded in the same scenescape in which she moved and breathed. She squeezed her eyes shut and focused on her breathing, not wanting to remember. Even now, two years after the bomb threat, the vision she had experienced seemed so real, as if she had been there and the memory of it still sickened her: the explosive ball of fire that tore through the school, the charred remains, the smell of burning flesh cloying her nostrils, the cries of the wounded, and the whine of sirens.

She shook away the memory and thought of her father, eager to get rid of her.

“Jack disowned me,” she muttered, despondent, yet with a lump of anger beginning to sizzle in her gut. She would never call him ‘Father’ again...

“He didn’t disown you, Amala. It’s more complicated than that, and he--”

“I’d rather not talk about him. Please?” Amala interrupted.

Jemal sighed, gave a sad smile, then nodded and squeezed Amala’s shoulder. “Of course. I love you, Amala.”

“I know,” Amala said and returned the smile, but when she looked out the window again, the sun didn’t seem quite as golden as before. She stared out the window, absorbed in her own thoughts the rest of the way to the old Indian ruins.

---

Are there lots of people at the ruins?
E:Y
TL:4

Is there cell reception?
B:N
TL:5

Amala hooked arms with Jemal and they slowly climbed up the narrow dirt trail that wound in curvy switchbacks along the foothills. After an hour’s hike, they stood in the shade of a massive granite rock. Below them, pines stretched in a carpet of green.

The air smelled fresh and clean. Lichen splashed up the granite in vivid yellows and oranges and wild flowers like feathery gems bedecked the mountainscape.

“It’s beautiful,” Jemal said, breathing hard, sitting on a boulder and dabbing at a sheen of sweat from the graying hair from a red handkerchief, looking down at the trees beneath them.

Amala felt hardly winded and she took a deep breath of the crisp mountain air. The training she had had from long hours at dance, gymnastics, and dojo training had given her a level of fitness beyond most peers her age. She felt could hike for hours yet if needed.

Scores of other hikers moved up and down the trail around them, other vacationers seeking the last attraction of the season before they had to return to the monotony of school and work.

They continued on, following the trail. It leveled off and led through a narrow crack in the cliff. Looking upwards the blue sky was sometimes seen. Along the narrow slot they saw the ancient remnants of homes, weathered by time, carved from the very rock.

They passed more ancient dwellings, squat buildings, with dark holes for windows. Sign posts embedded along the trail gave details about this cliff dweller tribe, what they probably ate, what they might have done for fun, living up on these heights.

Then there were the cave drawings. White lines scraped into the stone thousands of years ago. Some were fairly obvious pictures of buffalo and antelope. Others showed scenes of fighting and death.

Still others, more strange, required guess work.

She stood in front of one of these. It was in an even more sheltered location than the others. This blocky drawing, deep inside this outcropping, had been protected from the weather. Other tourists brushed past her, kids from one family commented on the “funny head” and “scary eyes”. It seemed to depict a being--one of their gods maybe--floating or descending from the sky, a triangle body, a long line for a neck, and elongated circles for heads with odd triangular eyes. Stubby lines made up the legs. She thought the cave drawing was crude to be sure, but then again, artwork probably wasn’t high on the ancient tribe’s todo list. Struggling to survive tended to weed out starry-eyed dreamers.

Yet... someone did carve this. Why?

“Strange isn’t it?” Jemal asked. “I wonder what happened to cause them to draw these pictographs? Were they some product of a late night story hour or something more significant, like some actual visitation from their Gods?” she sighed. “I guess we’ll never know.”

Her aunt gave her a sad smile, toucher her arm, and then moved further to look at another piece of cave art.

“I wonder...” Amala muttered to herself and reached out to the cave wall. She touched the rough stone, tracing one of the white lines with her finger.

Does she see a vision?
G:Y
TL: 6

The ground beneath her became a spreading pool of ink that opened up a nightscape beneath her. Her heart leapt inside her chest. She felt vertigo and almost cried out when she realized she was no longer in her present location. Or maybe her mind wasn’t. She still wore her tennis shoes, true, but her feelings and her thoughts were not her own. Before, she had only felt curious, but now, a dark fear coursed through her.

Darkness covered the land, and the moon peeked its face from between the mountain peaks. Where the parking lot would have been, now a dense forest covered the valley.

Images flashed in her mind. The tribe had brought out all their treasures for their sky gods, and the tribal chieftain had even gifted his own daughter as a sacrifice to the white disk. The girl had looked at her father, the terror in her eyes.

He nodded and pointed with his spear to the shadowy figures she couldn’t see. Strange figures with inhuman proportions.

Then a scream of terror. Her vision shifted. She sucked in a deep sharp breath, and in her mind, she saw a spinning disc of white light that slowly rose above the forest canopy and ascended up into the clouds. It radiated power and authority, and it brought death. Then it leapt away, arcing into the night and was gone. A flicker of suns and moons and clouds flashed across the sky in rapid succession for hundreds of days.

Then she saw a young boy, tears wet on his cheeks, and he etched the drawing of the strange being into the rock, his face a mask of anger muted by an intense anguish.

Do others notice her odd behavior?
G: Y
TL: 7

“Amala!” hands shook her, and Amala stumbled back from the rock. She was trembling all over.

“What...?”

“Look at me!” Her aunt's voice penetrated the fog in her head.

Amala sucked in another breath and her vision cleared and Jamal's face swam in front of her. She was sitting on a boulder and her head felt fuzzy.

“What happened?” Amala asked, ducking her head at the attention and concerned faces swimming around her.

Jemal knelt in front of her and brushed at Amala’s hair, smoothing it away from her face. “You started screaming darling. What is it? Are you alright? You’re trembling.”

A dozen people stood around her, giving her odd looks and someone made a comment about drugs and gave her a wide berth.

“Can we go back to the car now?” Alama asked.

“Sure. But can you stand? You look pale.”

She nodded. “I think so. I’m only a little dizzy.”

“That’s fine. You can lean on me.” Jemal said and helped her to stand.

“Will she be alright? I can take her to the first aid station,” A female park ranger, kneeling beside them asked.

Amala shook her head and gripped Jemal’s wrist.

“No, that’s not necessary,” Jemal answered to the ranger. “She’ll be fine. Thank you.”

Together, they made their way down the trail to the car. As they walked, Alama glanced over her shoulder and shivered at the dark cave, and a darker memory that was not her own.

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#2
Chapter 2
What’s at stake? Action/Physicality Violence
What is her goal? Get to safety, defeat the threat, keep Jemal safe

Is someone trailing them?
(G:Y, T7vS7, T8)

Is it crowded?
(B:NO, T7vS5, T1, RE Steal Portal)

Is there an actual portal?
(B: No, T1vS3, T2)
Sounds like it’s their car then.

It was early evening when they parked the car in a lot across from Thai Tower. Amala’s dizziness had left and after a nap while Jemal drove to another museum. Amala had slept in the car. She felt hungry and grateful to be out of the hot sticky car. In the distance, she heard a cheer and caught a whiff of popcorn and cheap hot dogs. Somewhere in the distance, she heard a faint cheer.

A swirl of hot air kicked up twisting garbage in a mini dust devil as they walked towards the restaurant.

The restaurant was largely empty aside from a couple of punks with spiked hair and leather jackets, ordering takeout, whose eyes followed them as their server led her and Jemal to a booth on the other side of the room.

The red and gold decor, including a golden dragon twisting over the entryway cheered her up. She loved oriental food and Thai was her favorite. She and Jemal had been her before and they talked of past meals and vacations, savoring good times mingled with the tangy taste of lime, ginger, galangal, and coconut.

“Who is that boy you’re seeing again?”

“I’m not seeing a boy.”

“Strange, he’s been over to the house three times in the last two weeks.”

“He’s not a boy,” Amala rolled her eyes.

“He’s not a boy. Well, he certainly wasn’t a girl,” Jemal’s warm eyes twinkled.

“Okay, fine, Chen is a boy but he’s not a boy in the way you’re thinking,” Alama pointed her chopsticks at Jemal. “He’s just a friend.”

“I think I said the same thing to your grandfather when I was your age. He took my car keys away,” Jemal said with a bland expression.

“Well, in this case, it’s true. Chen is... well he’s more like a brother than my own brother is. Besides, his greatest love is the latest computer. He’ll rave all day about GPUs, sticks of RAM and SSDs.”

“SSDs?” Jemal frowned. “Sounds like some kind of disease.”

“Solid state drives. He can talk your ear off about that and other stuff. My mind just sort of glazes over when he starts. So, there’s proof that he’s certainly not interested in a nerd like me.”

“Sounds like he’s a nerd too,” Jemal said.

“Yup...Nerds can’t fall in love.”

“Hmmm.” Jemal said.

“What do you mean, ‘hmmm’?”

“You can’t fight biology, honey.”

“Who said anything about biology? We were talking about nerds and computers.”

“You know, hormones?”

“Uhh. Right. Look, that’s just weird... and not just a little gross when I think of Chen, Okay?.”

“Okay, fine,” Jemal said, smiling. “So, what do you want to talk about then?”

“Anything, except boys.”

“Okay then, what are you looking forward to most of all your senior year?”

“Easy. To compete at nationals!” she took a large bite of the coconut pineapple curry, the complementary blend of spices exploding in her mouth.

“A lofty goal. But I know you can do it! Just like anything you set your mind to.”

“Thanks,” Amala swallowed. “I just don’t want to get nervous and freeze up like I did last time.”

“You’ll do fine,” Jemal smiled at her. “Nerves are nerves but I know you can work through them.”

The conversation turned to other things, and the time passed quickly. Soon, they paid for their food, tipped the pleasant waitress and made their way out to the car.

Dusk had turned to early night. With the ball game still going on, and most of the neighborhood at the game, the parking lot was close to devoid of cars.

Does she see the threat?
She’s good at observation and details so I’ll say good odds)
(G: Yes, T2vS4, T3)

Both of them?
(G: Yes, T3vS4, T4)

Amala heard the faint snick of a switchblade flicking open and caught a tell-tale gleam of street light on the blade as a darker shadow under heavy shade trees trailed them. Her danger sense kicked in, and though she had trained in the dojo these last couple of years, she couldn’t help but feel a thrill of nerves and a cold bead of sweat began to form between her shoulder blades.

Another shadow moved off to the left in front of them.

Her aunt must not have noticed, Amala thought. Jemal pushed her glasses back on her nose and went right on talking about some ancient Egyptian tablets she had seen in the Louvre when on a trip to France during her college years.

“Stay close to me,” Amala interrupted Jemal in an urgent whisper.

“Dear, what are you talking about?”

Then the two shadows rushed at her, a slender one behind with the knife and one ahead with a link of chain wrapped around his hand.

“Give us your car keys and we’ll--”

Impulse took over. Amala spun, and drove a roundhouse kick into the man’s face.

Unfavorable descriptors: There are two of them
Favorable descriptors: She’s a trained in martial arts and in sweet ninja skills, plus she’s dextrous and graceful

Does she hit him and knock him down and out?
(G:Yes, T4vS4, RE his knife goes flying into the weeds T1)
Yes, but he’s only out for a minute or so.

The graceful kick caught him by surprise and the force of it spun him around and sent him to the pavement and the knife skittered off into the weeds unseen and out of reach. The other punk, larger with more muscle, had wrapped a link of chain around Jemal’s neck.

Her aunt’s eyes bulged in fear as the man began to squeeze the breath from her. She tried to struggle, clawing at the chain and his hands, but he held her fast. “Give me your keys and money, quickly and quietly! Or I pull the chain through her windpipe!”

“Let her go!” Amala said, her fists balled defiantly and she took a step towards him.

“Or what?” he asked, yanking her aunt backwards.

“Or I’ll smash your face into the pavement like I did your friend!”

It was then that the other punk noticed his knocked out friend. For a moment, his eyes widened in disbelief and the chain loosened somewhat, enough for Jemal to gasp out a ragged scream. But he pulled it tight again, cutting it off.

“You just got lucky. Kyle gets stupid sometimes. Too eager. Too anxious. But I’m the smart one!” His eyes narrowed dangerously. “You try anything, and I swear she dies! Now, do it! Money and keys!”

Amala sighed, She slumped her shoulders in defeat and reached into her jeans pocket, removing a worn duct-tape wallet. With a sigh, she tossed it at his feet. “The keys to the car are in her purse. Please just let us go!”

One handed, he kept the chain about Jemal’s neck in a meaty fist and then knelt to pick up the wallet. He stood and tossed the purse to Amala.

“Open it! Keys! Now.”

That’s when Amala struck. She threw the purse at his face, he blinked and with a cry, she leapt forward, slamming her knee to his groin and an elbow snapping up into his chin. The other elbow crashed into the side of his head.

Does she take him out before he can hurt Jemal further?
(G:Yes, T1vS3, T2)
Yes, but he drags Jemal to the ground with him, and by the time it takes to free her, the first man will be back up.

The large man collapsed, and Jemal fell on top of him, coughing and wheezing for breath once the large man finally released his grip on the chain, his own hands feeling at his face, blood oozing from his chin.

Amala freed Jemal from the chain, and she pulled her aunt to her feet just as the smaller punk groggily stumbled to his feet, blood streaming from his broken nose.

Amala spun to face him, one foot slightly forward, ready to carry her into combat once more, her arms up in a guard stance.


Does he run away?
(G:Yes, T2vS5, T3)

With a groan, he limped away, leaving his larger companion to grovel in the gravel.

Amala snatched up her wallet from the parking lot, and she and her aunt ran to the car.

Do they get away?
(G: Yes, T3vS7, T5)

Hands shaking from adrenaline, Amala unlocked the car, with its cheerful chirp, and flash of orange light that illuminated the darkened lot for a couple of seconds. They slid inside, slamming the doors just as the larger man made it to his feet.

He raised his fist and stumbled after them, one hand bent across his midsection, pain seared in his face into a nasty grimace, blood dripped from his chin.

“Go!” Jemal shouted and squeezed Amala’s arm.

Amala pressed the pedal, and the engine roared.

“Gear! Put it in gear!”

The man was at the door. He slammed his palm against the window.

Amala finally got it into gear with a grind and the car lurched forward. Expletives punctuated the night as the man lumbered at them. Then gravel from their tires spat into his chest and face as they sped away.

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